While all the ways American Girl connects to its audience are too numerous to cover in this one post, I’m particularly amazed by its print publications. For instance, The Care and Keeping of You is a book all about growing up for girls. It ranks second in its category (and 76th most popular among all books on Amazon.) It’s from a brand selling dolls – but the subject has nothing to do with the dolls.
To get the word out, the startup has invested in content and taken its message all over social. Beyond the standard Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (where ClassPass cultivates a hip, color-forward feed that boasts 106,000 followers), Tumblr and Pinterest serve as fun and engaging visual platforms. The former gives “a peek at what energizes and motivates us to be active,” while the latter showcases a collection of self-improvement and lifestyle inspiration boards – one of which links entirely back to The Warm Up, the company’s consumer-facing publication centering on strong, fitness-fueled content.
Good content attracts, informs, persuades, serves and engages buyer personas, prospects, customers and other target audiences across the entire lifecycle and relationship with your organization and brand. It responds to the questions and needs of (prospective) customers during and after their buyer journey in correlation with direct and indirect business goals.
What you can do about it: This content hub is a brilliant move because Farmers Insurance establishes itself as an expert to its customers in a totally approachable way. If the content doesn’t answer something, Farmers makes it easy for customers to get in touch. Use your content to help your audience’s pain points on their own and establish your company as the go-to resource.
Makes sense, since the company produces 12 hours of live video per day, streaming real-life classes to homes across the country, on-demand. It’s how it keeps people coming back for more, by consistently providing something new to look forward to and actively engage in. With close-up videos of instructors – many of whom have risen to fame and actively promote the brand on social media -addressing at-home riders by name while calling out personalized encouragement, the content is nothing if not engaging.
Traditional marketers have long used content to disseminate information about a brand and build a brand's reputation. Taking advantage of technological advances in transportation and communication, business owners started to apply content marketing techniques in the late 19th century. They also attempted to build connections with their customers. For example:
Your content is only as valuable as its ability to attract audience members and compel them to engage with your business on an ongoing basis — as subscribers, customers, evangelists, or, ideally, all three. Once you have an addressable audience, your content efforts will help increase sales, gather valuable customer insights, and activate your most ardent followers as brand advocates.
You also need to “translate” captured content into content that’s appreciated by your audiences. And, last but not least, you need a way to manage the content you have and unlock it by making the link between content management and information management on one hand (typically not the role of marketing) and your content marketing team on the other.
This isn’t hard to do, but it does take some creativity. If you are selling anything related to cooking; run recipe awards, video tutorial contests or give away free items to people who post great videos using your product. If you are in the service business, create incentives for customers to give you video testimonials, reviews or product demonstrations.
One of the key challenges in content marketing – as a strategy – is to connect the content life cycle, the customer life cycle, brand touchpoints, different scenarios and personas, various goals and ways (channels, media, content) to achieve them and the proper processes of collaboration involving key stakeholders and – more than ever – customers and other members of the broader ecosystem (e.g. so-called influencers) themselves.
“It put content marketing, as a program, on the map for USAA, where it had never been before,” says Mollie Walker, Lead Marketing Manager and Content Strategy Lead, USAA. “Over time, we hope to show that the more we grow our content marketing as a program and discipline, the more we can save on the awareness media that we have to purchase. We’re filling that gap and telling a story in between awareness and buying stages.”
The results were magnificent. Simply Business increased their ranking for their main keywords, including reaching first place in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) for “professional indemnity,” “public liability insurance,” and “employer’s liability.” Even though they launched some guides before Google’s Penguin algorithm change, they significantly increased weekly organic traffic, meaning their link building practices were white-hat and high-quality.
User-Generated Content: Soliciting reviews, comments and content from avid online users and social followers cycles fresh ideas into your content production schedule and presents a more genuine relationship between your brand and the public. UGC allows followers to speak on behalf of your brand through digital vehicles like contests, giveaways, hashtag campaigns, video stories and other visual means.
Backed by Certified Public Accountants (CPA), the website is a help center for students, offering everything from becoming an accountant to motivation to career advice. The frontman is Alex Malley, an actual CEO. What I love is the ‘Ask Alex’ section where students can ask the CEO any question. Alex then posts video responses (really unique) each month.
In September, Visit Seattle teamed up with CBS to launch "The Emerald Race." Past "Amazing Race" contestants embarked on similar challenges in and around Seattle, taking in the city's sights and outdoor experiences, and meeting notable locals along the way. In October, Visit Seattle launched "Turning Tables," a series that paired local musicians and chefs to create unique music and dining experiences.
The ‘Citizens of the airport series’ is a little 10 part series focussed on KLM's customers. The brand intermittently interviews travellers in Amsterdam airport to share their story. Sure, these tidbits aren’t especially useful, and they won’t attract millions of views, but to a few select people, the content proves that KLM cares. This determination to truly understand and care for their customers is the reasons why people will start to pay more to fly with the Royal Dutch airline.
Which marketing and other organizational goals can we realize or improve by better using content marketing? An example: traffic building, conversion optimization, event marketing, lead generation and management, email marketing, social media marketing, marketing automation, customer service, etc. can all be improved by a better usage of content and content marketing. Your content marketing strategy looks at this. As a matter of fact, don’t just ask what organizational goals content marketing serves as in the chart. Many people, especially those calling the buying shots, have no clue what content marketing is and so do many executives, even in marketing. So, ask what organizational goals you can support and strengthen instead of trying to separate content marketing from the overall equation.
Marketers can learn a lot from this video. For one, it’s okay to think outside the box to show how your product works or what value it provides, no matter how boring or exciting it may be. You should also work to have a little fun with your marketing as it will clearly show in the final product. Even better if you can come up with an idea that’s relevant to your business while paying homage to popular media or trends!
Now that you’ve set your goals, it’s time to determine the KPIs you need to evaluate whether your content actually hits those goals. There’s no single magic metric that will give you a complete picture of your content success, but a combination of benchmarks can be useful to assess performance. Here’s a guide for choosing the right KPIs according to your goals:
So did they break it? Almost. Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya missed the mark by just 25 seconds, still beating the previous record for the fastest marathon by an incredible two and a half minutes. More than 13.1 million people watched the race as it streamed live across Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook, and an hour-long documentary special about the race (produced with National Geographic) garnered more than a million and a half views – a notable achievement in itself.
Want to get inspired, or get a better understanding of what killer content marketing looks like? We’ve compiled 75 of our favorite content efforts into our latest e-book, Get Inspired: 75 (More) Content Marketing Examples. Updating one of our most popular e-books of all time, this year’s collection illustrates best practices for a wider range of tactics and formats – from fresh takes on content marketing mainstays like blogs and microsites to next-gen innovations that capitalize on the latest digital media technologies and trends.
Podcasts. Michael Hyatt, author of the best-selling book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, practices what he preaches. His “This is Your Life” podcast is downloaded 250,000 times each month. As Hyatt elaborates on his blog post 4 Reasons You Should Consider Launching Your Own Podcast, “A podcast gives you visibility in a completely different world—primarily iTunes. I have had scores of new people say they had never heard of me until they stumbled onto me in iTunes.” Hyatt gives valuable information and advice in his podcast--all for free. But that podcast leads to more sales of his books, signups for his courses, and requests for him as a speaker.
To adapt the sample plan for content marketing, you could adjust the marketing mix section to focus specifically on existing content, and your methods of distributing and promoting it. In the marketing implementation section, you can focus on the type of content your brand will create, and identify who will create it. That section of the sample is an ideal location for an editorial calendar.
All Coke did was print individual names on cans and bottles and suddenly everyone was identifying with the product. In this campaign, and in all of Coke’s marketing, it built a foundational shared experience that almost everyone has with its product and made it shareable. In the next phase, customers could customize bottles with all kinds of names and titles for a super interactive, one-of-a-kind product.
1. Hipmunk: Traveler’s Guide to Tipping. Travel booking site Hipmunk creates a wealth of content to answer common traveler questions and conundrums. One blog post called Traveler’s Guide to Tipping is a fantastic resource for tipping practices in countries around the world. It includes guidelines for restaurants, taxis, and hospitality. Other excellent posts from Hipmunk include How Travelers Can See the New Star Wars Movie Two Days Early, 48 Things to Do in Asia, and How Much Does a Disney Vacation Really Cost. The takeaway is simple: know your demographic and answer their questions. None of these posts are interactive or flashy, but they provide important and relevant information.
Most people count on incorporating popular holidays such as New Year's and Thanksgiving in their marketing efforts, but you don't have to limit yourself to these important marketing dates. If there are niche holidays that might appeal to your audience, it could be worth publishing content on your blog or on social media. HubSpot's Service Blog Editor Sophia Bernazzani compiled this ultimate list of social media holidays -- keep an eye on it when you're planning your calendar.
27. Vitamix: Be Inspired. Everyone knows a high-speed blender boasts many applications, but Vitamix attempts to explain every use case possible on its Be Inspired site. From champagne cocktails to raw foods, Vitamix’s articles are an incredible resource for creative types with high-speed blenders. (And judging from the smashing popularity of Vitamixes, that’s a growing subset of the population.)
Santander frequently promotes Prosper and Thrive content on all its social channels, including Facebook, where it has 123,000 followers. Though Santander's Instagram audience is still small, at a little over 1,600 followers, it's using the channel to exclusively promote the Prosper and Thrive brand with images that speak to the millennial audience and tease content from the hub.
28. Home Depot: Spreading seasonal knowledge. Home Depot shares excellent content year-round, but I especially admire how their content is hyper-focused on what’s top-of-mind for customers in the changing seasons. Energy-efficiency during the holidays, selecting a Christmas tree, and how to create a wreath were all recent articles as I wrote this post in late December. To ensure timeliness, Home Depot is always thinking ahead to the next few seasons and anticipating customers’ future needs — a great reminder for all brands who create content.
Ron Faris, Head of Brand Marketing at Virgin Mobile, told Forbes that these online marketing strategies have played a key role in building the Virgin Mobile brand and generating new leads. Faris claims that Virgin Mobile has been more successful than its competitors because the company focuses on improving social engagement, rather than merely expanding social reach:
The Common Language in Marketing website is an ongoing and comprehensive encyclopedia of globally relevant and standardized marketing terms, activities, metrics, and systems. This open-source, curated library of definitions combines the insights of leading marketing academics, industry trade associations, and subject matter experts with input from the broader community.
Ebooks are the next step in the inbound marketing process: After reading a blog post (such as this one), visitors might want more information. This is where calls-to-action (CTAs) come into play, directing people to a landing page where they can submit their contact information and download an ebook to learn more valuable information for their business. In turn, the business producing the ebook has a new lead for the sales team to contact.
The “marketing” part of content marketing can lead to confusion as content marketing is not just used for strict marketing purposes. It’s also used for sales enablement, public relations, etc. Good programs involve multiple internal customers (customer service, sales, product marketing, brand management, etc.) and content marketing is not owned by marketing (nor by PR or any other division).
It's content that helps people find you. It might even be content that makes people fall in love with you a little. But discovery-level content is not usually the last touch before a big sale. There are many more layers of content that usually finesse that conversion. (More on that when we discuss how content can represent various stages of the funnel in ch. 3.)
This is particularly critical in large organizations, as it can help keep siloed teams on the same page, minimize duplicated efforts, and ensure that everyone is working toward the same content goals. But sharing your documented strategy is also good practice for businesses that are just starting out with content marketing, for content teams that rely on internal or external subject matter experts, or for companies that outsource any part of the content creation and distribution process.
We'll show you the basic steps of a content audit here. If you're looking for a deeper dive, check out this guide from Distilled and this more SEO-focused one from Everett Sizemore. In addition, Michael King has a great presentation that takes a deep dive into the use of personas in content audits with a solid look at some helpful tools, and Inflow has a helpful chart to focus your auditing efforts.
Webpages. What’s the difference between a normal webpage and a webpage that is content marketing? Consider The Beginner’s Guide to SEO from Moz, a provider of SEO related tools and resources. This resource, offered for free, has been viewed millions of times, bringing in countless customers who otherwise might never have stumbled across Moz and the services they offer. Or take a look at a case study from the design firm Teehan+Lax. Most case studies are boring. Their case studies are fascinating. That’s the difference between simply putting content on your website, and content marketing.